Category Archives: Research

Welcome, Matt Ninneman, new post-doc!

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our research is continuing. And now our work will be strengthened by the addition of post-doctoral scholar Matt Ninneman!

Matt comes to us from the State University of New York at Albany (NY), where he received his PhD in Atmospheric Science. His dissertation was titled “Ozone and reactive oxidized nitrogen chemistry in the northeast U.S.” Matt’s research experience in ozone photochemistry and air quality and box modeling will be a valuable addition to our research. In his position at UW Bothell, Matt will be studying the effect of wildfire smoke on ozone production in urban areas using the Framework for 0-D Atmospheric Modeling (F0AM) box model and assisting with research at Mount Bachelor Observatory.

Matt is originally from Charlotte, NC, and received his BS in meteorology from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. He is new to the West Coast and looks forward to exploring the many bike trails in the Seattle/Bothell area. His other hobbies include running, playing basketball, reading, and closely following the Boston Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves in baseball and the Charlotte Hornets in basketball.

Even though we are unable to welcome Matt in person, we are delighted to have him join our group and look forward to future non-Zoom get-togethers. Welcome, Matt!

How effective is your face mask?*

*Fit means more than fabric.

Have you wondered how effective your cloth mask is in protecting you from the COVID-19 corona virus?  We wondered that too, and this led to our newest research project—studying the effectiveness of cloth face masks. Shahbaz Qureshi, a 2020 UWB Biochemistry graduate, and Praphulla Boggarapu Chandra, postdoctoral researcher, have been working with Dr. Dan Jaffe on testing mask effectiveness. Their research was featured on KIRO 7 news, where Dan Jaffe was interviewed by reporter Jessica Oh.

Shahbaz Qureshi doing mask research

Shahbaz Qureshi adjusts a cloth mask on a mannequin head in an experiment testing the mask’s effectiveness. Photo credit: Marc Studer.

The preliminary research results show that for filtration, fit is more important than the mask material: Tight-fitting masks were twice as efficient in stopping aerosol particles as looser masks. “All masks reduce the particulate—the aerosols you’re putting out in the world and the aerosols you’re breathing in—both ways to some degree,” Jaffe said. “If you wear it properly and you have a tight-fitting mask, it reduces it a lot more.” Dr. Jaffe also plans to present the mask problem to his Quantitative Environmental Analysis class in the upcoming Autumn quarter. “Students will for themselves see: How good is my mask, and how important is the fit?”

Watch the KIRO7 news video on the mask research

Read more about the mask research on the UW Bothell News page

Videos highlight research

Check out our new Videos page! There you’ll find videos that showcase the group’s research over the years. The page includes videos on airborne research in 2001 to current air quality research at Mt. Bachelor Observatory in Bend, Oregon.

Undergraduate researcher Shahbaz Qureshi recorded two videos about the group’s research in the summer of 2019. One shows the Jaffe team working at Mt. Bachelor Observatory, where they are setting up and maintaining research equipment. The second video focuses on a research trip to Boise, Idaho. During the summer of 2019, we measured volatile organic carbons, NOx, and other compounds at a site near Boise in order to understand the impact of forest fire emissions on the tropospheric photochemistry of ozone and aerosols at downwind sites. Qureshi has been conducting research with the Jaffe Group for the last year and graduated from the University of Washington Bothell in June 2020.

VIDEO: Jaffe team research trip to Boise, ID, Aug. 2019

VIDEO: Jaffe team working at Mt. Bachelor Observatory, Bend, OR, Sept. 2019

New critical review of wildland fire impacts on air quality

Dr. Dan Jaffe is the lead author on a critical review that examines the processes that influence wildfires and prescribed fires and their effects on air quality in the U.S. This review, “Wildfire and prescribed burning impacts on air quality in the United States,” is published in the June issue of the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association. This paper is the result of a collaboration between Dan Jaffe and Susan O’Neill, Narasimhan Larkin, Amara Holder, David Peterson, Jessica Halofsky, and Ana Rappold. These coauthors have brought their range of expertise to the issues related to wildland fires and have examined each of the processes influencing these fires and also the effects of the fires, “including the natural role of wildland fire, forest management, ignitions, emissions, transport, chemistry, and human health impacts.”

Large wildfires in the U.S. are becoming more common, and their emissions of particulate matter (PM) and gaseous compounds negatively impact air quality and human health. The air quality trend in the U.S. has been improving in the last decades. However, seasonal wildfires threaten to undermine this progress in parts of the country. The area burned by wildland fires has grown significantly in the last few decades due to “past forest management practices, climate change, and other human factors.” This has resulted in millions of people experiencing high levels of air pollution. As cities and towns have spread further into wildlands, costs for fire suppression (to protect human developments) and the consequences of fires have increased significantly.

U.S. wildire area burned and federal suppression costs for 1985-2018

Total U.S. wildfire area burned (ha) and federal suppression costs for 1985–2018 scaled to constant (2016) U.S. dollars. Trends for both wildfire area burned and suppression indicate about a four-fold increase over a 30-year period. Data source: National Interagency Fire Center, Fire Information Statistics, accessed December 2, 2019. https://www.nifc.gov/fireInfo/fireInfo_statistics.html.

In this review, Dr. Jaffe and his coauthors describe the current state of the research and identify key data gaps. Their goal is to identify areas that are well understood and areas that need more research. They recommend eight specific areas for future research.

Read the paper here

Free paper eprints available here

2 new papers explore methods for measuring biomass burning pollutants

Research by Jaffe Group postdoctoral scholars Dr. James Laing and Dr. Boggarapu Praphulla Chandra has resulted in two new peer-reviewed publications. Both papers examine methods used for measuring air pollutants from wildfires.

The first paper, “Comparison of filter-based absorption measurements of biomass burning aerosol and background aerosol at the Mt. Bachelor Observatory,” was recently published in Aerosol and Air Quality Research. The authors, Dr. James Laing, Dr. Daniel Jaffe, and Dr. Arthur Sedlacek, III, evaluated the upgraded aethalometer (AE33, Magee Scientific) and the new tricolor absorption photometer (TAP, Brechtel) to assess their effectiveness in measuring wildfire aerosol plumes. These instruments measure light-absorbing organic aerosols, which are emitted primarily in biomass burning. Both instruments were deployed at Mt. Bachelor Observatory (MBO) in central Oregon during the summer of 2016. Each instrument uses a similar methodology (“light extinction through an aerosol-laden filter”), but each has a unique set of corrections necessary to address filter-based bias and other issues. The coauthors found that when using the AE33 manufacturer’s recommended settings, correction factors that are larger than the manufacturer’s recommended factor are needed to calculate accurate absorption coefficients and equivalent black carbon.

Read the full paper.

In the second paper, coauthors Dr. Boggarapu Praphulla Chandra, Dr. Crystal McClure, JoAnne Mulligan, and Dr. Daniel Jaffe evaluated the use of dual-bed thermal desorption (TD) tubes with an auto-sampler to sample volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Their paper, “Optimization of a method for the detection of biomass-burning relevant VOCs in urban areas using thermal desorption gas chromatography mass spectrometry,” appeared in the journal Atmosphere in March. For this study, the authors utilized a portable, custom-made “suitcase” sampler, which they deployed in  Boise, ID, during the summer of 2019.

The sampler continuously collected samples of VOCs on the TD tubes for up to six days without the need for continuous on-site monitoring. The tubes were later transferred to the lab for analysis using thermal desorption gas chromatography mass spectrometry (TD-GC-MS) to detect VOCs.

Suitcase thermal desorption VOC auto-sampler 4-2020

(a) Internal view of the volatile organic compound (VOC) suitcase sampler; (b) Flow diagram of the VOC suitcase sampler; (c) Schematic diagram of the dual-bed TD tubes.

They found that “reactive and short-lived VOCs such as acetonitrile (a specific chemical tracer for biomass burning), acetone, n-pentane, isopentane, benzene, toluene, furan, acrolein, 2-butanone, 2,3-butanedione, methacrolein, 2,5- dimethylfuran, and furfural . . . can be quantified reproducibly with a total uncertainty of ≤30% between the collection and analysis, and with storage times of up to 15 days.”

Their research demonstrates the applicability of this flexible method for ambient VOC speciation and determining the influence of forest fire smoke. This sampling method offers a practical alternative for urban air quality monitoring sites because its portability does not require the installation of a complex and expensive instrument and its auto-sampling technique does not require continuous on-site monitoring.

Read the full paper.